Making ECD Systems Flow.

Factory-style workflow boards provide a visually effective way to identify blockages within the system of registering Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres with the Department of Social Development (DSD). Only registered centres are able to access much-needed operational funding from the government.

Take a look at the Making ECD Systems Flow video

The need

The delivery of ECD services on a large scale comes with real administrative challenges. One of the most significant challenges is the registration of ECD centres with the Department of Social Development (DSD).

There are an estimated 40 000 ECD centres in South Africa and each one must be assessed and registered with the DSD at least every five years – a massive administrative hurdle, with registration of each site taking up to 12 months. If the centres are not registered, they are not able to access government funding and other support intended to improve the quality of their service.

The registration process needs to be simplified. Blockages need to be identified and addressed, demands on the system need to be quantified, and the myriad of stakeholders need to be fully engaged. Cost-effective and practical solutions to these issues will ensure that all ECD centres are recognised, supported and accountable within Government systems.

The innovation

In partnership with DSD and Ilifa Labantwana, we drew inspiration from the private sector to find simple solutions to improve registration systems efficiency.

Low-tech workflow boards are often used in the private sector as a visualization tool. They have been shown to improve work efficiency and flow in factories across the world, because they clearly show what blockages in the system need to be addressed, and when.

The use of factory-style workflow boards to assist in highlighting blockages in the South African ECD registration system was piloted at two Government Social Development offices in Kwazulu Natal and four in the Eastern Cape.

The ECD workflow boards break down the registration system into a number of simple steps – from site identification to issuing a registration certificate. Blockages in the registration process are quickly identified and easily prioritised, so that efforts can be focused on the key constraints within the system.

Using the workflow boards over a period of six months showed that the process could be made both simpler and more efficient. Over the past year and a half, the workflow boards were successfully scaled to 32 social development service offices in each province and our scaling partner, Ilifa Labantwana, continues to work with Government to on-board new sites.

As part of our work in the Western Cape, we have begun to pilot workflow boards in a third province.

Key insights

Simple and tested methods imported from the private sector offer a direct way of meeting some of the difficulties involved in ECD registration.

Visualization tools clarify a complex process and make sure that social workers and other stakeholders are engaged and involved in providing young children with the care they need.
Making ECD Systems Flow enhances team productivity and ensures that work is carried out systematically and efficiently.

The benefits to young children, their caregivers and their communities are clear. The provision of high quality early learning depends on funding and support, and administrative backlog has long proved an obstacle in accessing that support.

Innovative approaches are needed, and this initiative shows how simply and effectively they can be implemented.

The project team

Network Action Group (NAG) is a network of grassroots organisations in the Ugu District of Kwazulu Natal. Their aim is to strengthen management and leadership in the CBO and NGO sectors, working closely with government departments.

Ilifa Labantwana works to secure an equal start for all children living in South Africa, through universal access to quality early childhood development.

Last updated on 6 April 2018